Since the pandemic began, the NHS has only listed three symptoms – a high temperature, a cough and a loss or change to taste or smell. However, many other countries and health bodies have listed up to 14 symptoms. The NHS says that the virus’ symptoms are “very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu”.
Professor Tim Spector, who is the lead scientist of the Zoe Covid symptom tracker app, expressed relief that the symptoms list has “finally changed”.
The amendment, he said, came “after two years of lobbying”.
Writing on Twitter, the epidemiologist said: “NHS official main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) have finally changed after two years of lobbying and Zoe app user input – hurrah!
“Pity they have the order wrong – but it’s a start and could help reduce infections.”
The new list of symptoms includes a high temperature or shivering; a new, continuous cough; a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste; shortness of breath; feeling tired or exhausted; an aching body; a headache; a sore throat; a blocked or runny nose; loss of appetite; diarrhoea; and feeling sick or being sick.
Professor Spector has previously hit out at the government for their “refusal” to recognise a longer symptom list, claiming it is likely to have caused an increase in cases.
In March, he said: “The Government’s refusal to recognise the wide array of symptoms and to drop isolation advice and testing is likely driving the incredible number of cases we see today.
“Many people are no longer isolating when they have symptoms, either because they feel they don’t have to anymore or because they or their employers still don’t recognise symptoms like runny nose or sore throat as Covid.”
The Covid-19 symptoms listed by the World Health Organisation include 13 signs, four of which are not listed by the NHS – a rash or discolouration of the fingers or toes, red or irritated eyes, loss of speech or mobility and chest pain.
READ MORE: NHS updates list of coronavirus symptoms to include nine new signs
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control notes 12 symptoms, while Germany lists 14.
Speaking to the MailOnline, Professor Spector said the UK’s recent move is “definitely a step in the right direction”, adding that “it could help reduce infections as we go forward”.
But he caveated: “Whilst this is good news, I’d like to see the order of the symptoms changed, as the NHS list puts far too much emphasis on symptoms like fever, and anosmia, which we know are much less common since the Omicron variant emerged.
“According to the ZOE COVID Study, the top five symptoms being reported by contributors with a positive Covid test are; runny nose (83 percent), fatigue (71 percent), sore throat (69 percent), headache (69 percent) and sneezing (68 percent).
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“It seems this decision has been made in light of the changes to testing.
“We were always told that the barrier to expanding the list was that adding more symptoms could overwhelm the testing capacity, so it makes sense that since free testing has now stopped, the list has been updated.”
The changes come just weeks after the Government scrapped all Covid-19 restrictions, with the public no longer being required to isolate when they show symptoms.
However, the NHS website says that people experiencing the expanded list of symptoms should “try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people”.
They should also take “extra care” to avoid contact with more vulnerable people.